The twelve issues this Christmas

As ever this year has been an eventful one for energy. As we look back over the past few Christmases we see how it has gone up the agenda and exploded into the public’s consciousness. For ENA that has meant ensuring that the vital role that networks play is not lost in the great debate. That has always been our role. This has meant aggressively pursuing and advancing the smart agenda, for the key to public acceptance of many aspects of the energy policy is the networks. We are the buckle that brings together the interests of the consumer with the imperative of addressing climate change. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, developing a smarter grid is in your best interest. For this will help protect the public’s purses and wallets whilst reducing our carbon footprint. The central point to remember is that without a smarter network there will be no smarter grid and without that the public will not fully benefit from our low carbon future.

However, this year has not just been about delivering the smart agenda. Keeping up the profile on the networks and protecting our members’ interests has also meant branching out into territory we have not entered before. A prime example of this has been the metal theft campaign. This year has seen our award winning campaign deliver real legislative change exactly along the lines of what we had asked for. Whether it be a new cashless system for scrap metal dealers, tougher penalties or an effective license regime for the scrap metal industry. All these things are either already in place or will be very shortly. We have had many battles along the way and only a short time ago most of this would have seemed impossible but despite this we have delivered. In so doing we have carved out a profile for ENA and the networks that it had not had before. We will build on this into 2013 as we look to develop our involvement in addressing carbon monoxide poisoning as we take on management of the Gas Safety Trust. ENA has proved it can be a campaigning organisation.

Meanwhile we have delivered some really successful and big conferences. The highlight of this must be the Low Carbon Networks Fund Conference held in Cardiff back in October which was opened by the First Minister of Wales. Once again the profile of the networks and ENA continues to improve. Next year will see even bigger and more events like this.

Politics is never far from ENA’s activities and this year has seen some major upheavals. In September we saw the departure of a great friend of ENA and the whole energy sector with the departure of Charles Hendry from DECC. His expertise will be sorely missed in Government if not in energy itself. The sad news of Malcolm Wicks’ death in September, another friend of ENA, was also a great loss to energy. ENA embraced a controversial issue at the Party Conferences this year as we held full capacity meetings on the fringe with Ed Davey, new Energy Minister John Hayes and Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex. The subject to get everyone going was acceptance of energy infrastructure to deliver a low carbon future. This provoked a lively but constructive debate. Just what we had been aiming for. Once again ENA raising the profile.

Meanwhile we have observed the political fissures that have emerged, particularly within DECC. John Hayes spoke at our fringe meeting for the first time as Energy Minister and even there he was proving what a political ‘larger than life’ character he is. The ‘philosopher energy minister’ has blazed a colourful trail since moving to DECC to the clear chagrin of Mr Davey. Where will this all end? Perhaps the clue is in the great enthusiasm the Chancellor has developed for energy policy. This is not just about shale gas. It is about direction and one thing Mr Hayes said at our fringe is perhaps a portent. “Gas is not something we should be apologetic about”. ENA’s Delta-ee Report on domestic heat launched in October is helping shape the debate as we anticipate a major policy announcement by DECC on heat in March. Expect further battles to ensue within DECC!

All this has come against the backdrop of a gas and transmission price control review and one commencing now on electricity distribution. All these under the new incentive based RIIO approach and which will last eight years instead of five. An exciting and challenging time for companies that have to think about the transition to a new low carbon future and against a backdrop of mixed messages from Government on all aspects of energy policy.

ENA have always been underpinned by our technical and engineering work. As part of that we are also reviewing our technical guidance on connecting distributed generation – doing a vital job in facilitating renewable energy across the UK. This will help all in the industry who want to develop low carbon energy sources.

Our industry continues to highlight the partnership approach on health and safety that is an example to others. Central to this is delivering on the Powering Improvement Strategy which ENA leads on. This year has seen further profile raising that is set to continue.

And finally we continue to influence and sometime battle for the networks in the corridors of power in Brussels, Strasbourg and across Europe.

So here are the twelve issues this Christmas;

  1. Smarter networks

  2. Metal theft

  3. Gas safety

  4. Bigger high profile events

  5. All change at DECC and lost friends

  6. Energy policy confusion and conflict

  7. The future for gas and heat

  8. Hard hitting ENA reports

  9. Price control reviews

  10. ENA technical guidance for a low carbon future

  11. Powering Improvement on health and safety 

  12. Europe

And finally...

This year saw some big anniversaries. None bigger than the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens. How apt that 1812 was also the year of the birth of Britain’s gas network, the most comprehensive in the world. It is therefore appropriate at this seasonal time that we recall Mr Dickens, a recorder of the societal impact of new technologies. In ‘A Christmas Carol’ itself is a reference to not only the gas network but to street works:

“In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture.”

A warm and bright Christmas and a resilient New Year to one and all!

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